Monthly Archives: July 2018


How good is your sales onboarding – do you have the wrong focus?

Onboarding is a vampire project.

In other words, you can stab it, shoot it, and burn it with fire. But it will keep coming back to life.

Why is this? Can onboarding actually be so hard to do effectively?

Yes and no.

Yes. Do onboarding wrong, and it will crash mightily. Until someone else gets assigned to “fix onboarding.” And repeats the cycle.

At the same time, no, it’s not that hard. You are only trying to get people to the most basic level of proficiency so that they can enter their role with the foundation to thrive.

So, why is onboarding consistently on most sales enablement to-do lists?

Because the solution that is called onboarding doesn’t address the actual problem you have to solve.

What is the problem? Well, in our practice, we see five interconnected issues that define the problem. This blog is going to be about the first one – which is the most common mistake we see.

Onboarding Mistake #1: The focus is on the product – instead of the customer

How many of your sales people struggle with shoving their product knowledge ahead of their customer’s perspective in sales conversations? If you are like many companies, it’s a lot.

The impact of this is slow ramp-up times, stagnant pipelines, messy forecasts, and ultimately high employee turnover.

Think of your current onboarding right now.

Ask yourself, “On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being perfect), how well do our graduating sellers understand our customers’ top challenges as well as, if not better than, they do?”

Now, ask yourself, ““On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being perfect), how well do our graduating sellers understand our products/solutions?”

If your answer to the first question is higher than your answer to your second question, well done! You are designing your onboarding – and preparing new sales people – the right way.

If your answer to the first question is lower than your answer to your second question, you have a problem. A problem with creating a product-focused sales force, instead of a customer-focused sales force. A problem that will slowly erode the quality of every sales conversation that new hire will have. A problem that your top sales managers and top sales reps will have to undo. And a problem that your worst sales managers and sales reps will reinforce.

If you liked our approach to onboarding, you have two things that you can do.

  • First, join the discussion and share your perspective. Comment below (and share/like this blog). We love engaging in a great conversation.
  • Second, be on the lookout for registration details for our webinar on How to Build World-Class Sales Onboarding with a panel of true experts on Thursday, September 6th, 2018. Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more…

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

3 ways to improve sales performance without relying on innovation

Years ago, when I worked as an employee for a global company, I had access to some interesting resources. One in particular stands out – for a couple of not-so-great reasons.

First, it was expensive. It cost tens of thousands of dollars just to become a member of their community and get access to research. It wasn’t my money, but I never thought it was the highest priority spend for us.

Which leads me to the second point: the research wasn’t worth the money. This group of primarily academics would provide me “best practices” that had been defined by the companies doing the best financially that year. But when I looked under the veneer, I found a terrible bias towards companies that were predominantly technology innovators. Well, duh. Innovation sells itself. That’s why it is such a precious resource to consistently invest in.

But what do you do when you don’t have any game-changing innovation? What do you do when your best innovation is essentially the same as your top competitors?

In my last post, I ranted about how too many leaders don’t know how to improve their team’s performance without some new innovation to sell itself. So this week, I’m giving you three things that you can do immediately to drive improved sales.

Number one: I can’t say this enough – drive clarity. Make sure everyone on the team (inside and outside of sales) understands the outcomes they are supposed to be working towards (no, a sales target is not an outcome – that’s the metric) and their roles in achieving them. Simply sitting your people down and making sure everyone is on the same page costs you nothing to do and provides immediate benefit. Frankly, this one action alone can drive an immediate lift in performance. Further, investigating where – and why – clarity breaks down will provide you months of action to address the biggest obstacles.

Number two: Create engagement. And by engagement, I specifically mean BOTH motivation AND empowerment. Don’t simply persuade people to care. Create an environment where you tackle what is de-motivating them (like isolation, information overload, etc.) and give them the assets they need for success (like access to people who can be an example/coach, showing them how to use their resources better, etc.). Again, simply giving this area attention and telling people what you see and what you will do can lift sales performance quickly. The critical key is immediately doing something about what you see/say. Make the effort, share the results.

Note: If you combine clarity and engagement, you get a powerful one-two punch that may literally take you years to fully build and implement. But the rewards will be phenomenal because how you execute matters.

Number three: Get deep on your customers. By this, I mean make sure that everyone on the team understands their customers in very specific, very tangible ways. They should be able to talk about their customers for at least 10 minutes without mentioning your company, your products, or themselves. They should be able to give real examples of what their customers are doing now, the challenges they are experiencing now, and the decisions they are making now. Share this information with each other – then define how you are helping these customers now. Only then can you connect the dots between the customer’s problems and the solutions you provided to them. Describe how you worked together to deliver the value you promised. Finally, make these stories available to the entire sales team so that they can see what true customer-focus looks like. You would be amazed at how often simple story-telling will help sales people get outside of their perspective and see their roles in new – and motivating – ways.

And for a bonus: You can always ask for help. Get someone (like us) to help you navigate the complexity of your business with an outsider’s eye. Leverage a fresh perspective to see what you and/or your team is missing. The impact can be immediate.

What would you add to the list?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.


A simple, but important, rant

Warning: This is going to be a bit of a rant.

I once had a conversation with a senior executive in charge of sales at a large supply company. It didn’t go so well.

For starters, he was under tremendous pressure to drive a turnaround. North American sales had stagnated and the company was getting hammered by competitors. In fact, he had just spent $1M with a famous consulting company to get his strategy defined and ready to execute (note: nothing had executed yet).

Additionally, he had bought into the idea that he already knew everything, so talking with a consultant like me was, to him, something he was only doing because he had been asked to.

But the real sign that the conversation was not going to go anywhere was when we started talking about the problem he was trying to address. His first response was, “Problem? We don’t have any problems here.”

I quickly countered, “Fine. You just spent one million dollars with McKinsey. Why did you do that?”

“Well, we need to get the business to… (pause) oh, you’re good.”

Sigh. This is not the kind of dialogue I enjoy.

To jump ahead, I told him that all of his efforts needed to enable sales conversations. If those conversations didn’t happen, it didn’t matter what technology/process/training/marketing materials/compensation plan/etc. he was going to implement.

“So, how does your strategy enable sales conversations?” I asked.

His response? “I really don’t know, but I just spent a million dollars and I’m going to start there.”


And THIS is what’s wrong with most of the organizations I see. They are led by leaders who don’t know how to grow their business outside of generating new innovation. They deploy resources where they think they should go based on past habits and trendy business articles. They haven’t studied how healthy organizations create powerful sales engines. IF these leaders ever sold in their lives (and that’s a big IF), it was likely years ago when the economy – and their customers – were drastically different.


So, why am I ranting today? Because I want to see the narrative change. I want to see businesses thrive. I want to see people who are excited to go to work because sales are UP and the business is GROWING. I want to see delighted customers who think their suppliers are awesome and great to work with.

And if you are reading this, you VERY likely feel the same way. You want to see your company experience all of the above – and more. You see the disconnects and the self-inflicted wounds your company is experiencing. You know the leadership gap exists and you want to tackle it.

But the battle is just that – a battle. There’s chaos in the air and the ground is shaking.

Simply know this: I’m grateful to be able to share the foxhole with you. We’ll get there. I will do my best to give you the tools and arguments you need to change mindsets. And I am here to respond to your own rants and offer whatever support I can.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.